Introducing the authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival http://bit.ly/24eOVtl . I’m looking forward to having many more such chats over the next couple of weeks.
So far I’ve
cross-examined interviewed Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF, Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh , Matt Johnson: http://bit.ly/1RUqJFg , Christoph Fischer: http://bit.ly/1svniAr , Sally Spedding: http://bit.ly/1VNRQci, Wendy Steele: http://bit.ly/1PMoF8i ,Kathy MIles: http://bit.ly/1twN3Bg , Carol Lovekin:http://bit.ly/1Y2z6HT, Colin R Parsons: http://bit.ly/1tvBc5G , Lisa Shambrook: http://bit.ly/28NMI5v: ,Alex Martin: http://bit.ly/28VLsQG , Judith Arnopp: http://bit.ly/290cJMl , Sharon Tregenza: http://bit.ly/29frGPq Juliet Greenwood:http://bit.ly/29jylrM , Nigel Williams: http://bit.ly/29racfO , Julie McGowan:http://bit.ly/29CHNa9 , John Nicholl: http://bit.ly/29NtdtX ,Tony Riches: http://bit.ly/29y3a8k: and Wendy White: http://bit.ly/29TMCpY And thanks to Thorne Moore for interviewing me: http://bit.ly/1VTvqGq Over the next week I’ll be introducing thelast of the authors. I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance and who will be giving short talks and may be able to give advice to would-be authors: http://honno.co.uk/ , http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/ and http://www.cambriapublishing.org.uk/ ,
There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of http://showboat.tv/ who, as usual, will be filming the event.
Today I’m really pleased to introduce children’s author Angela Fish.
Welcome Angela, lovely to be chatting with you today.
Happy to be here, Judith.
So, tell us,Angela,where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from, and how long have you been writing?
My mother read to me a lot when I was little and I was reading simple text myself by the time I was four. I’ve never lost my love of reading and can be quite greedy with it! I remember writing simple poems and stories, and even plays, from the age of seven. Later on, most of my creative energy went into English essays but it wasn’t until I started an Humanities degree that I had any formal creative writing experience.
What kind(s) of writing do you do?
As a child, I wrote anything! Stories, poems, plays, and I loved making up stories to tell my friends and my younger brother. As an adult, initially I focused on poetry and my dissertation was a collection of poems with commentary. After that I did an M.Phil. (Literature) but that was a research project, rather than my own writing. I went on some residential writing courses, mostly for poetry, and published some in journals. I was also placed second in a magazine short story competition, but then I started lecturing at my local university and work, and academic writing, took over. It wasn’t until I took early retirement and joined a writing group that I started writing again with any real purpose. Since then I’ve had a highly commended and a second place in Writer’s Forum magazine poetry competitions, written five books for children (two published, one just about ready for the printers, two submitted for publication), begun a new trilogy for girls, and have two adult novels partly written! It’s been quite a productive time but I don’t think that I would have done half (if any) of it without the support and encouragement of the writing group, and then the writing circle that I’ve been involved with.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t so?
That writing for children is easy or that the author doesn’t have to be so careful with research/planning and so on. For the most part, children’s books are ‘filtered’ by adults, so sloppy or patronising writing won’t be acceptable. Children are also quite discerning readers. I’ve had a class from a junior school, together with some individuals, read the manuscripts to ensure that I was ‘hitting the mark’ with my ‘Ben’ series. An additional benefit from this has been engaging with the children as I’ve been invited into schools to talk to them, not just about my books, but about the process of writing and publishing.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration all around me. I love to watch the changing of the seasons and the different species of birds, insects and flowers, plus the changes to the trees, that each one brings. I also love watching (and listening to) people when I’m out and about! It’s amazing how a simple statement or a conversation can be developed into a storyline, plot or poem. I’ve been an avid reader all my life and I think that, even though I can’t possibly remember every book I’ve read, some part of each one has left an imprint and influences what I write. As a child I was fascinated with magic and with mythical creatures and tales. Writing for children allows me to recreate that sensation of the wonder of the ‘unreal’ and place it in the real world. I can only hope that my own stories might engender in others the same sense of delight in the written word, and encourage children to explore and develop their own creative activities.
What inspired you to write this first novel for children?
As I mentioned, I was part of a writing group and we were experimenting with different genres – stretching ourselves really, as it’s easy to become stuck in the same groove. We agreed to try writing for children and I completed two shorter (picture) books – one non-fiction and one fiction. Then we used story cubes (dice) as prompts for character and plot for the first chapter of a longer piece of work. The two images that came up were an open padlock and a triangle shape, but with wiggly lines rather than straight ones. Most of the group interpreted the shape as a pyramid or a tent but it immediately reminded me of a doodle that I’ve been drawing on the corners of pages since I was a teenager. It’s a partial cobweb with a spider dangling from it.
Once that thought had come into my head, I couldn’t shift it and so the basis of the story line developed. The padlock gave rise to the spider’s name (Lox) but also to the idea of his role as gate-keeper to the spider kingdom. The plot uses the traditional motif of a quest, but with a twist. I completed the first chapter and as I had such positive feedback from the group, I decided to finish it. Considering that I spent the last ten years of my working life in the intergenerational field, it’s not surprising that the main character, Ben, and his grandmother have such a close relationship, but this evolved as I was writing the book – it wasn’t a specific intention when I began.
How much planning do you do when you embark on a new story?
I don’t make really specific plans but I generally have the story outline, and sometimes quite a bit of detail, in my head before I even put pen to paper. I like to talk to my characters and even role-play their parts. I do plan things like time sequences, for example, as I have to make sure that I don’t make mistakes or create something that isn’t believable. I’ve also had to bear in mind that two of my main characters are seven years old so there are many places they wouldn’t be able to go, or things they couldn’t do, at that age. Although there’s a magical element to the stories, they do have a basic everyday setting, so I have ensure that it is realistic.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Absolutely. I’ve been so fortunate that the publishers introduced me to Michael Avery who has done the illustrations for all three books. He totally understood my concept of the characters, the settings (in both the real and the magical worlds), and has added a whole new dimension to the books that the children I’ve spoken to have totally embraced.
What process did you go through to get your book published?
My first search was for publishers who were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Then I looked for some more detailed information about each company and at their terms of submission. The main thing that influenced me to submit to the Book Guild was that they asked for the whole manuscript right away and they guaranteed to respond more quickly than many others, which they did.
How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
My career path has not been a straight one! I started my working life as a medical research technician in a local hospital. I stayed there for about six years by which time I had married and was expecting my first son. At that time there was no maternity leave – women had to give up their jobs! For the next eight years I was a stay-at-home mum with my two sons, then I returned to work. I joined the Polytechnic of Wales – again as a laboratory technician, but in electrical engineering. Following this I undertook administrative work for the Faculty but I knew I wanted something more. I did ‘A’ level English Literature in one year via my local adult education college (evening class) and then applied, as a mature student, to enter the Humanities degree programme at the polytechnic (later – the University of Glamorgan). After I completed my degree, and then an M.Phil., I stayed at the university as a lecturer, then senior/principal lecturer over a period of 15 years. One major role (which has obviously influenced my first series) was the implementation of a project which brought together younger and older people (in a school environment) to improve intergenerational communication and relationships. Restructuring of my department would have meant a big upheaval so I opted for early retirement – the best thing I ever did! As I mentioned above, this was where the real opportunity and incentive for writing began.
What do you like to read in your free time?
I read anything and everything. At one time I was really into the crime/forensic genre; another time it was historical fiction. I would also not allow myself to put down a book until I finished it – it seemed like a disservice to the author, but these days I have learned that my time is important too, and if an author hasn’t done enough to capture my interest by, at least, chapter three, then maybe that book is not for me. I have a circle of friends (not necessarily writers) who are avid readers and we often share books. This means that I read things that I would not, necessarily, have chosen for myself, but it has had many positive outcomes and I’d recommend this avenue of book ‘choice’!
How do you find or make time to write?
I find it impossible to have a set time for writing each day. I know that this works for lots of writers, but I guess I’m just not disciplined enough! However, when I do create that space to write, I can often achieve anything up to seven thousand words in a day (that’s an eight to ten-hour writing day). Of course, like any writer, I might discard/edit a fair proportion of this, but it works for me. I don’t want to feel that I have to write, but that I want to write. If it ever became a chore, then I’d stop and simply read.
What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?
The publishing team set out where they’d market but also asked for local information. That’s where I’ve focused my attention, on the whole. I’ve approached local schools and have given readings/done workshops, together with appearing at fetes and book fayres. It can be a slow process as I find it hard to ‘sell’ my own books to children so I just give them the publicity postcards (that the publishers produce) to take home to their parents. Obviously, it takes a lot of time and effort (as a ‘new’ author, I haven’t been charging for these sessions) but I’m happy to try to create a presence, and to promote my first series, at the moment.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
For the ‘Ben’ series, I could see Emma Thompson as Gran. It’s not exactly a ‘Nanny McPhee’ role, but her portrayal of that character immediately brought her to mind. As for Ben or Jess, I really don’t know. I love the little girl who does the ‘Oreo’ adverts and the boy who does the advert for mortgages (‘so they could have me’!) but I’m not really up to date with child actors at the moment! We can but dream.
What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
I totally embrace modern technology but I do worry that the ‘art’ of writing is slowly being eroded. When children ask me how I begin writing my books, I’m completely honest and I tell them ‘With a pencil and paper’. Those first few sentences are always magical for me, and I’m always excited as I see the page fill up. I try to convey this sense of wonder to anyone that I work with and I sincerely hope that, as technology advances, we don’t lose sight of the true meaning of the ‘written’ word.
Links to find Angela;
Links to buy Angela’s wonderful books